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Pancreatic Cancer - Overview

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most malignant tumors in the body. The anatomy of this gland and its location allow the growth of the tumor and easy spread onto the surrounding organs. This is why many cases of the pancreatic cancer are diagnosed in the third or fourth stage of the disease. The fourth stage (IV) is terminal or end stage of pancreatic cancer. This stage features with a variety of symptoms and signs and it includes rapid deterioration of the patient and death.

Pancreatic cancer usually starts in the head and neck of the gland and it may originate from the exocrine or endocrine tissues. Still the majority of pancreatic carcinomas are pathologically classified as adenocarcinomas. This malignant disease predominantly affects men. It may occur due to genetic predisposition, poor diet, smoking, obesity and diabetes. This malignant disease is also more frequent in patients older than 60 and those suffering from chronic pancreatitis.

Unfortunately, the number of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer has increased in last few years. The major problem is that the diagnosis is usually set in advanced stage of the disease when patients can only benefit from symptomatic and palliative treatment.

Symptoms of End Stage Pancreatic Cancer

In end stage of pancreatic cancer apart from infiltration of the regional lymph nodes, the tumor may affect all the nearby organs and tissues and can even give distant metastases. At the time of diagnosis regional spread of the tumor is identified in approximately 25% of all patients and even up to 52% of patients have metastases in distant organs.

The symptoms and signs of stage IV pancreatic cancer basically depend on the affected organ. Still the most common symptoms and signs of pancreatic cancer include jaundice (infiltration of the liver), severe skin itching, sharp abdominal pain, loss of appetite and weight loss, digestive problems, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, excessive bloating and diarrhea.

The prognosis of the end stage pancreatic cancer is poor. The patients cannot be operated and they usually do not respond to chemotherapy. Radiation therapy can be only applied in limited form of the disease hence is useless in end stage of this malignant disease.

Diagnosis of end stage pancreatic carcinoma can be easily set after certain tests and examinations among which CT scan or MRI of the abdomen give perfect insight of the presence of the tumor and they also identify the spread to the disease to surrounding organs. Definitive diagnosis can be set after pathohistological examination of the biopted tissue.

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